Liberty Records was an American record label started by chairman Simon Waronker in 1955 with Al Bennett as president and Theodore Keep as chief engineer. It was reactivated in 2001 in the United Kingdom and had two previous revivals.
|Distributor(s)||Capitol Records (US catalog)|
Parlophone (UK catalog)
|Country of origin||U.S., UK|
Liberty's early releases focused on film and orchestral music. Its first single was Lionel Newman's "The Girl Upstairs." Its first big hit, in 1955, was by Julie London singing her version of the torch song, "Cry Me a River", which climbed to No. 9 in the Billboard Hot 100. It helped Liberty sell her first album, Julie Is Her Name. She was to record 32 albums in her career.
In 1956 Liberty signed Henry Mancini and released two singles and several albums by him. He left in 1958, signing with the RCA Victor label, when he became more popular. Billy Rose and Lee David's song "Tonight You Belong to Me" reached number 4 (US) and number 28 (UK) when it was performed by teen sisters Patience and Prudence (McIntyre), selling over a million copies. It was first recorded in 1927 and revived by Frankie Laine in 1952. Liberty also scored a Top 10 hit with Margie Rayburn's "I'm Available" and the singer went on to recorded two dozen singles for them.
The label's biggest rock singer was Eddie Cochran who starred in his second film, Untamed Youth. His first hit for the label was John D. Loudermilk's "Sittin' in the Balcony" in 1957, then came "Summertime Blues" and "C'mon Everybody".
The roster included R&B act Billy Ward and His Dominoes after Jackie Wilson quit, replacing him with ex-Lark Eugene Mumford. Their version of Hoagy Carmichael's 1927 song "Stardust" reached No. 13 in the Hot 100 at Billboard and 13 on the UK Singles Chart in October 1957.It was only million seller.
By 1958, Liberty was close to bankruptcy when singer-songwriter David Seville had a number one hit with his novelty song "Witch Doctor". Later that year he combined multi-track recording with the altered speed technique he had used in "Witch Doctor" and introduced the Chipmunks (Alvin, Simon, and Theodore) in "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)". The Chipmunks were named after Liberty executives Bennett, Waronker, and Keep, respectively.) In the months leading to Christmas of 1958, the record went to number one and became the only Christmas record to reach number 1 on the pop chart, selling 4.5 million copies.
In 1965 Liberty acquired Pacific Jazz, founded in 1952.
In 1958 Liberty formed a sublabel called Freedom which lasted through 1959.
1960s and 1970s
Liberty's most successful signing of the early 1960s was Bobby Vee, picking up "Suzie Baby", a single he recorded with the Shadows for Soma. He covered the Clovers' 1955 doo-wop ballad "Devil or Angel" in mid-1960 and later that year recorded Gene Pitney's "Rubber Ball", which made him an international star. In the summer of 1961 Vee had a hit with "Take Good Care of My Baby", which peaked at number one (US) and number 3 (UK). He had hits until 1970. Other acts on the roster were Willie Nelson, Jan and Dean, Johnny Burnette, Gene McDaniels, Del Shannon, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Timi Yuro, and Vikki Carr. Snuff Garrett produced easy listening albums credited to "The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett." The name of the group was sold to Sony before being acquired by Tom Ficara and Combined Artists in 1997. Liberty sent an annual report for the fiscal year ended January 31, 1962 that included a limited edition 33-1/3 vinyl record with songs by Bobby Vee, Timi Yuro, Gene McDaniels, Si Zentner, and Tommy Garrett. A welcome message recorded by Simon Waronker was also included.
In 1963 Liberty was sold to electronics corporation Avnet for $12 million. Avnet also bought Blue Note, Imperial, Dolton, Aladdin, and Minit. After two years of losses, Avnet sold the labels back to Al Bennett for $8 million. In 1966 Sunset was started to reissue records from the acquired labels. Sunset's catalog included Eddie Harris (The Explosive Eddie Harris), Jimmy Reed (Something Else), Les McCann (Django), Teddy Buckner (A Salute to Satchmo), Wild Bill Davis (Flying Home), Lester Young (Giant of Jazz), and Chet Baker (Swings Pretty).
Liberty recordings were distributed in the UK by the Decca group on London Records, then by EMI on Liberty. Liberty established a branch office in London, which signed the Bonzo Dog Band, Idle Race, and the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation. After moving distribution to Philips in 1967, they returned to EMI in 1970. Liberty also signed the Searchers. In 1967, Liberty issued the first single by Family. Ron Kass, onetime president of Liberty, became the head of Apple, the label of the Beatles. Ron Bledsoe, assistant to Al Bennett, was picked by Clive Davis to run the Nashville branch of Columbia. In 1966 singer Johnny Rivers started another Liberty subsidiary, Soul City. The following year, Liberty discontinued the Dolton label and moved its catalog to the parent label. In 1967, Liberty signed Canned Heat, which had three hit singles for the label. In 1968, Liberty was bought for $24 million by Transamerica Corporation, an insurance company, and combined with United Artists. Two years later Imperial and Minit were shut down and transferred its catalog and artists to Liberty and United Artists. In 1970 Sugarloaf scored a top 10 hit in the United States with "Green-Eyed Lady", which reached number 3 on the Billboard chart. Sugarloaf would score again in 1975 with "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" (US number 9).
In 1971, Liberty and its remaining labels (except for Soul City, whose catalog was sold to Bell and Blue Note) were shifted to United Artists, and Liberty was no more. In 1978 Artie Mogull and Jerry Rubinstein acquired United Artists and Liberty with money they borrowed from Capitol. In February 1979, Capitol's parent company EMI foreclosed on them and took over Liberty.
1980s and 1990s
In 1980, EMI dropped the United Artists name and revived the Liberty name. EMI used Liberty to reissue the catalogs of United Artists, Liberty, and Imperial. From 1980 to 1984, Capitol used Liberty as a country music label for Kenny Rogers and Dottie West and heavy metal band Manowar. In 1991, EMI renamed its Capitol Nashville label to Liberty before returning to the Capitol Nashville name four years later.
In 1994, Liberty president Jimmy Bowen founded a sister label called Patriot Records, whose roster included Bryan Austin, Lisa Brokop, John Berry, Deana Carter, John Bunzow, and Noah Gordon. After the label closed in 1995, Berry, Brokop, and Carter transferred to Capitol Nashville.
After releasing many late-1990s Europop acts like the Hermes House Band, EMI reformatted the label in 2001 to focus on 'heritage acts'. The label, operating in a similar sphere to that of rival and one-time sister label Sanctuary, signed the Alarm MMVI, the Stranglers, VBirds, and Prefab Sprout.
Liberty Records artists
- Ankeny, Jason. "Si Waronker". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
- "Liberty Records Story". Bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
- "Julie London Top Songs". Music VF. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 420. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins. p. 84. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Cochran, Bobby; Van Hecke, Susan. Three Steps to Heaven (1st ed.). Hal Leonard. p. 60–. ISBN 0-634-03252-6.
- Eder, Bruce (19 September 1921). "Billy Ward & the Dominoes". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 591. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins. p. 96. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- "Animation: The History of the Chipmunks". Animation Resources. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
- "Simon Waronker, founder of Liberty Records dies. van Martin Denny Combo op Myspace". Blogs.myspace.com. 9 June 2005. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
- Poore, Billy (1998). Rockabilly: A Forty-year Journey. Hal Leonard. pp. 46–. ISBN 978-0-7935-9142-8. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
- "Liberty Buys Autry 'Flying A' Building". Nielsen Business Media. 14 September 1959. pp. 4–. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
- Eder, Bruce. "The Clovers - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
- Bush, John (30 April 1943). "Bobby Vee - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
- Sunset Records, Dept SU, and information about Eddie Harris recordings, as well as other mentioned jazz artists, found on LP SUS-5234 Sunset Records, listed as a product of LIBERTY RECORDS, SUS-5234-1
- Blevins, Brian (1 August 1970). "Lib/UA in U.K. Cuts Philips Tie; EMI Pact". Google Books. pp. 55–. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
- Tiegel, Eliot (6 April 1968). "Transamerica Buys Liberty for $24 Mil" (PDF). Billboard: 1.
- "UA Corp Absorbs Lines; UA Records Sole Disk Co". Google Books. Nielsen Business Media. 23 January 1971. pp. 3–. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
- "Liberty 'New' Name of UA". Google Books. Nielsen Business Media. 6 September 1980. pp. 5–. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
- Kingsbury, Paul (16 December 2004). The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 407–. ISBN 978-0-19-517608-7. Retrieved 27 February 2019.